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Threat of disease spread could lead to rules changes

| Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012, 10:59 p.m.

Talk to any serious archer and it's likely they'll tell you that in hunting during or close to the rut, they've used deer urine at some point in an attempt to lure in a big buck.

Is that really safe, though?

That's a question being asked again in connection to the state's deer herd.

Several years ago, Pennsylvania Game Commission veterinarian Walt Cottrell told members of the agency's board that the wisdom of allowing urine to be used — in a world where the spread of chronic wasting disease was even then beginning to take off — was something they might want to reconsider.

The board didn't act on that idea then. But, with CWD having been discovered within the state's borders this year, it is being talked about again.

The issue came up at the commission's most recent work group meeting, when it was revealed that urine produced at the one of Pennsylvania's quarantined deer farms had been on store shelves. Stores voluntarily agreed to take it out of circulation, said Cal DuBrock, director of the commission's bureau of wildlife management.

But about 15 percent of deer farmers — there are about 1,100 licensed in the state — collect and sell urine, DuBrock said. Some market it directly, while others sell it to bigger operations which combine it with other supplies before taking it to market.

Farms under quarantine can't move deer urine off their properties, DuBrock said, but by the time the disease is discovered, it could have moved a lot of product, as was the case recently. It was only by “happenstance” that the commission even became aware of that product, he added.

That's got commissioners pondering what to do.

“I think the discussion has to be there right now with what we do and where we go,” said commissioner Jay Delaney of Luzerne County. “I'd rather be proactive than reactive.”

Several Canadian provinces have already banned the use of deer urine in hunting. Following suit here, though, is sure to be “an economic issue” in the minds of some, said commissioner Brian Hoover of Philadelphia.

There's also the problem of whether any regulation change can be effective.

“The true challenge of this is always enforcement,” said commission executive director Carl Roe. “Do you have a law on the books that you can enforce?”

Those are questions that the board is apparently going to try to answer or that, perhaps, it is going to have to answer.

“We're concerned about deer spreading CWD prions at the same time we're allowing hunters to take urine and spread prions all over the landscape,” DuBrock said.

Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at bfrye@tribweb.com or 724-838-5148.

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